Saturday, August 02, 2014

Love or authority - Philemon 8-9

"Therefore, though I have enough confidence in Christ to order you to do what is proper, yet for love's sake I rather appeal to you — since I am such a person as Paul, the aged, and now also a prisoner of Christ Jesus." (Philemon 8-9)
Authority is not the enemy. There are times when authority is needed and necessary to the occasion at hand. Even Paul understood that his authority was given to him for the benefit of the body. "For even if I boast somewhat further about our authority, which the Lord gave for building you up and not for destroying you, I will not be put to shame." (2 Corinthians 10:8) And when heresies were arising in the church at Crete, he commanded Titus to use his authority in full strength to restore order and faith to that young church. "These things speak and exhort and reprove with all authority. Let no one disregard you." (Titus 2:15) However, in some cases, it is important for authority to give place to persuasion. Authority speaks as one over another, giving commands to be followed, while persuasion speaks as an equal; to encourage the other towards a just response or choice.

Sometimes, persuasion is better and can accomplish more that commanding. Consider what Paul spoke about marital relations. "The wife does not have authority over her own body, but the husband does; and likewise also the husband does not have authority over his own body, but the wife does." (1 Corinthians 7:4) While every word of this is true, it may not be the best tack to take. Demanding your rights and commanding what you want may not be the best way to get what you desire. In some cases, persuasion may work better than command!

Many times Paul choose to relate to people as their brother rather than their apostle. To the Corinthian church, he wrote his letter urging them to return to unity and piety lest he should later have to come in authority. "For this reason I am writing these things while absent, so that when present I need not use severity, in accordance with the authority which the Lord gave me for building up and not for tearing down." (2 Corinthian 13:10) To the Thessalonicans, he reminded them that, even though he had authority as an apostle, yet when he was with them his general demeanor was one of love and gentleness. "Nor did we seek glory from men, either from you or from others, even though as apostles of Christ we might have asserted our authority. But we proved to be gentle among you, as a nursing mother tenderly cares for her own children." (1 Thessalonians 2:6-7) The same is true in this letter to his friend Philemon. Though he could have command him to do what is right, out of love he chose to rather appeal to him and to his free response towards what is fitting.

We live in a large Navy community and I have known some men who have had trouble transitioning from work to family life. They are very comfortable commanding a ship of five thousand sailors and attempt that same leadership style at home; leading the home as if they were commanding a ship. Needless to say, most of the time that does not work very well. While they command well, they forget love and, especially in a home, love of often of greater need then commands. While extremes of work life and home life may not be as great for us, the same can still be true. We too may need to learn when to stop commanding and start loving; to give persuasion a chance before we resort to authority. If so, we too might find that love goes a lot further than authority.

David Robison

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